Wednesday, 18 March 2009

'Grace/Wastelands', Peter Doherty

Peter Doherty is Mr Marmite. Along the way, he has built up a horde of fans who would pay good money for one of his cigarette butts, who won't hear a word against him and want the world to know he's the Messiah. The same way, he has gained a huge number of haters who think he is a waste of space, and as he states perfectly in Broken Love Song, would love to see him swinging in his cell.

This album does not reinforce either position. In fact, it is hard to believe that the same man who causes such intense feelings in people made this album. It is certainly not bad, not with gems like A Little Death Around The Eyes, but it is, dare I say, a little boring. There are 'skip' tracks: Sheepskin Tearaway and Lady Don't Fall Backwards just can't hold my attention, and I don't have the feeling it's going to be too much of a grower.

Peter has one inexplicable skill, however. He can write phrases which evoke strong emotion. Although New Love Grows On Trees is excellent from beginning to end, most songs don't manage to stir the heart all the way through, but most of them have at least a passage, a lyric or a melody which you can float away on, a moment which truly touches the listener. This would be different for everyone of course, but the skill is definitely there, and is found in a lot of things penned by Peter in the past. 1939 Returning, New Love Grows On Trees, Broken Love Song and A Little Death Around The Eyes are standout tracks because they make good use of Pete's talent for inspiring feeling.

This album is a departure from what Peter has done with Babyshambles and The Libertines. It's a lot more laid-back, thoughtful and it makes use of different instruments, like in the ridiculously old-fashioned but well-written The Sweet By & By (which sounds like it should be on an advert for an old-folk's home, or in a light television comedy-drama, and is definitely about Carl Barât). Stephen Street has done a lovely job of the production too, cleaning things up and getting the best out of Peter's drawl, without killing the atmosphere with polish.

The only problem I have, as I have said, is that the formula for each song gets boring. Sometimes, all you want is for someone to turn up the electric guitar and play a great guitar solo, or for the drummer to stop holding back. It's too mellow, I suppose.

I would give this album 7½/10. It's good, well-written, thoughtful music, what you'd expect to happen when Peter went solo to be honest, but that 2½ it missed out on is for the unreached potential, in the absence of the passion and energy that Pete usually cannot keep out of his music.

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